Under-nutrition among Egyptian children cost the country’s economy an estimated 20.3 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) in 2009, or 1.9 percent of gross domestic product, the United Nations said, citing a government study.
Higher health-care costs, additional burdens on education and lower productivity stemming from stunting or chronic malnutrition were particular drivers for the economic losses, the UN’s Rome-based World Food Programme wrote in an online statement today, citing the study results.
Stunting occurs among 40 percent of the populace in Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, according to the research, which was backed by organizations including the WFP. That means more than 20 million people of working age are unable to achieve their potential, the WFP wrote. The results are part of a 12-country study in Africa.
“In rural Egypt, where most people are engaged in manual activities, it is estimated that in 2009 alone, a value of 10.7 billion Egyptian pounds of economic productivity was lost due to lower physical capacity by those who were stunted as children,” the WFP wrote. “Under-nutrition is not just a health issue, but an economic one as well.”
Illnesses linked to child under-nutrition were estimated to result in health-care costs equivalent to 1.2 billion pounds, according to the report. Data from Egypt’s Demographic Health Survey showed the number of stunted children increased in 2008 from 2005, affecting 28.9 percent of those under the age of five.
The study was performed by Egypt’s Information and Decision Support Center, with data provided by the statistics agency and the health and education ministries, the WFP said.
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